BFI London Film Festival Reviews

The Aeronauts – BFI London Film Festival 2019 Review

There seems to be a lack of light-heartedness in cinemas these days. Especially considering that this year’s most controversial film was the nasty and dark Joker film. However, there are some movies that simply want to fly with the wind and on the wings of butterflies.

The Aeronauts is such a film – a movie that is sweet, beautiful, and exploratory.

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The Aeronauts revolves around real life meteorologist James Glaisher. Despite being mocked by his peers, Glaisher believes that he can predict the weather by monitoring airflow and clouds (ridiculous, right?) He enlists the help of aeronaut Amelia Rennes. Using her hot air balloon, the pair ascend great heights and aim to go higher than anyone has gone before. Yet, what dangers will they face? Will they ever solve the mysteries of the sky as they traipse closer to the stars than man has ever done before?

Directed by Tom Harper, who earlier this year released the stunning Wild Rose, returns to man this accomplished and stunning movie. Though light in subject and script – a frivolous period outing that is full of flight and fancy – Harper crafts a compelling story. Floating across the rooftops of London and skimming the clouds, The Aeronauts soars with captivating visuals. There are moments in the film that lack and feel like a paint-by numbers survival movie that brushes the surface, weighted by clichés. Despite this, there are moments of genuine heart and exhilaration here.

Paired with exquisite cinematography by George Steel and a whirlwind score by Academy Award-winning composer Steven Price, The Aeronauts is literally breath-taking. As the balloon flies to greater heights, the view of this colourful vehicle against the backdrop of sky and clouds is gorgeous to watch. One particular moment will push you to the edge of the seat and make your hair stand on end, feeling as tense and beautiful as movie such as Gravity and All is Lost.

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Felicity Jones is the star here. Jack Thorne’s script and the direction definitely give her more room to shine. As the fictional character Amelia Rennes, Jones is able to convey a spirited woman plagued by grief who wishes to help people get to great heights. She is a great heroine to follow. Working with Eddie Redmayne again, it’s clear the pair have wonderful chemistry together. But Redmayne’s gruff Glaisher is less appealing. Not that he, in real life, didn’t do incredible things, it’s that in the film he feels more of a pushy scientist than equal hero alongside Jones’ Rennes. Himesh Patel appears but is vastly underused but his character does have sweet moments.

The movie does feel like it dives into the action to soon, choosing to flashback to Earth in order to build its characters. This has two adverse effects: It takes us a while to warm to both Glaisher and Rennes, and we struggle to care for the on-ground action. We’d much rather have our heads in the clouds here.

The Aeronauts is a light-hearted romp. The story and action make it the perfect family outing, feeling like those classic nineties films that you’d venture out to on a lazy Sunday afternoon. With Felicity Jones helming the film with her merriment and gusto, The Aeronauts is perhaps a surprising movie that flies a higher than expected.


The Aeronauts screens as part of BFI London Film Festival. 
Buy tickets now. 

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